Cinema Sunday: The Night Stalker (Kolchak) 1972

nightstalker0

Title: The Night Stalker

Distributor: ABC Television

Writer: Richard Matheson (novel by Jeff Rice)

Director: John Llewellyn Moxey

Producer: Dan Curtis

Starring: Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Claude Akins, Elisha Cook Jr.

Released: January 1972

MPAA: NR (estimated PG)

 

 

Alright, time for another made-for-TV movie! It has been a little while since I’d done one of these, but trust me, this one deserve the attention! Yeah, at first glance most people are going to be all like…”hey, there’s Ralphie ‘s dad from A Christmas Story!”  And although it is true, this character (Kolchak) is nothing like that portrayal. With one notable bad performance (which I’ll get to later), this film was one that garnered much attention at the time, and actually was rated extremely high. The horror genre was in full swing in other media by now as well (comic books, movies, etc.), so this was perfect timing by the studio. OK, enough of the small talk, here comes the vampire action!

 

kolchak3

The film begins with a woman, who works at a casino in Las Vegas, heading home after a long, evening shift. A voice narrating (Darren McGaven), tells us about her and the situation in that city. She heads down an alleyway, and gets jumped by someone with an extreme amount of strength. She’s found the following day by a garbage man. The scene then switches to a hospital operating room, where three surgeons are baffled at the blood loss of the victim.

 

kolchak1

We next see reporter Karl Kolchak (Darren McGaven), as he heads toward Las Vegas. He comes back to work early from vacation at the behest of his boss. At the office, managing editor, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), barks at Kolchak, and tells him to head out and find something juicy about the murder. Kolchak heads to the hospital where a certain doctor gives him some tips every once in a while. The doctor tells him that there wasn’t anything about the murder that was suspicious except massive blood loss.

 

kolchak2

Kolchak then heads to the casino where the girl worked, and talks to one of her girlfriends, Gail Foster (Carol Lynley – image above), and she doesn’t really give anything he can use. We do however find out that Gail is Kolchak’s girlfriend. Just three days later, and we get another murder. This time, a girl is found in a desert area off of a freeway. The puzzling thing is that there are no footprints near the body, and that her throat has an injury to it. No blood is found by the victim. There are signs of a struggle nearby, but none near the corpse. The sheriff (Claude Akins) isn’t having any of Kolchak’s nonsense either.

Another couple of days, and another murder of a young woman. Same evidence or lack thereof is present, so Kolchak turns to a friend in the FBI, Bernie Jenks (Ralph Meeker). He asks him to use his resources to look into the murders. Kolchak gets a phone call and his friend at the hospital tells him that a different hospital was recently robbed of several containers of blood. Later that day, there’s a press conference held at city hall. The coroner tells the onlookers that the girls were bitten on the throat, and blood was pumped out of their bodies. He also tells them that human saliva was found on the wounds as well. The sheriff gets angry and yells at Kolchak when he asks the coroner about the possibility that a man tried to drink the girl’s blood for some unknown reason.

 

kolchak4

After the meeting, the sleazy mayor has a little meeting with Kolchak and basically warns him off of creating speculation about the crimes. Kolchak takes a story to Vincenzo, and he balls him out over it and threatens him as the mayor did earlier. As Kolchak is back at his place, he and Gail talk about the case. He gets a phone call about another murder, but this time there was a witness. The woman describes the killer and his car. Things quickly escalate after this, and Kolchak and the police are ready for action. He then gets one of his other contacts to do some digging for him, and the switchboard operator is more than happy to do it after he bribes her with chocolates (yes, really).

 

kolchak5

After a composite drawing of the killer, the police are ready to act on any kind of call. We next see the killer (not his face), stalk a young woman. He approaches her outside by her car, but suddenly, she opens the back door, and a huge dog jumps out of the car, and onto the killer. He easily thrashes the dog, and then the girl goes missing. Kolchak has it out with Vincenzo about the suppression of the news because of the police and politicians. Vincenzo tells him they don’t want to create a panic, so that’s why it’s being kept quiet. They eventually track down where the killer bought the car, but not much comes from that situation.

The next evening, Gail attempts to get Kolchak to buy into the killer being a real vampire. He isn’t having it, and before you know it, he’s out the door after hearing about another robbery at a hospital. We now get to see the killer, and what he can do. He manhandles two orderlies, and throws a third out of a two-story window. Before the killer can get away, the police arrive, and we see the killer absorb a multitude of shots from the police at close range…and he keeps going!

 

kolchak6

Is this killer just some kook wearing a bullet proof vest? Or is he the real deal? Can Kolchak survive a confrontation with this supernatural killer? You must see this one to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

For anyone that hasn’t seen this flick or the television show, you’re really missing out. There was another T.V. movie a couple of years later as well, but this one is really the best. Darren McGaven gives a fantastic performance, and really elevates this small screen production. Having guys like Richard Matheson (writer – screenplay) and Dan Curtis (producer) behind the scenes doesn’t hurt either, but he really sets the tone for this film. Even Carol Lynley (The Poseidon Adventure) was pretty convincing in her role as Kolchak’s girlfriend (except for the fact that he looks old enough to be her dad).

The soundtrack is pretty jazzy, and the overall production quality is solid. The special effects were few but definitely noteworthy, especially the scene where the dude was thrown out of the second-story window. The vampire wasn’t very menacing as far as the make-up, but he’s a pretty big dude, and that was enough to make him sort of scary. Plus they relied on atmosphere in most of his scenes, so there’s that too.

Definitely give this one a watch, as you’ll be impressed by McGaven’s work! The supporting cast also gives this one a helping hand (Carol Lynley is gorgeous!) for the most part (other than the overacting by the editor in the film).

 

carollynley-thenightstalker

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Scream of the Wolf (1974)

screamofwolf6yz7.3525

 

Title: Scream of the Wolf

Distributor: ABC Television

Writer: Richard Matheson

Director: Dan Curtis

Producers: Charles Fries & Robert Singer

Starring: Peter Graves, Clint Walker, Jo Ann Pflug, Philip Carey

Released: Jan. 1964

MPAA: PG

 

Sticking with the werewolf theme from last week, I thought I’d spotlight this little made for T.V. movie from 1974. Like most television movies, it doesn’t have the big budget that the Hollywood flicks do, but they do sometimes have a charm to them that those other movies don’t. It also helps when you get names like Matheson, and Curtis to be involved with the project.

Two of the actors in this film a good draw for that era as well (Graves & Walker), so that helped bring people in too, and they delivered solid performances. Alright, now let’s get to this ABC television classic from 1974!

 

screamofwolf1.5

The film begins with headlights coming down a foggy road. The car starts to sputter, and the driver realizes that the car is out of gas. He decides to walk to a nearby house, but is startled by something moving in the brush. He sees something that terrifies him, and we hear the growling of a beast. The man runs back to his car, barely making it ahead of the beast. The beast begins to smash his windshield, windows, and tear through his convertible top.

As the credits roll, we see a massive search going on by the police near the scene of the murder. Sheriff Bell (Philip Carey – image below), is on the scene, talking to his men about any clues they may have found. He’s shocked by the remains of the victim, and at the shape the car is in as well. The sheriff then proceeds to the home of a local writer, John Wetherby (Peter Graves – image above), to ask for his help. You see, Wetherby was an avid hunter, and has a good knowledge about animals. The two men then check out the tracks that the animal left at the scene. Wetherby tells the sheriff that the attack sounds like something a leopard would do, but the tracks resemble that of a wolf of considerable size.

 

screamofwolf2

The following day, Wetherby is heading over to a local store in his awesome Corvette, to visit Sandy Miller (Jo Ann Pflug), his girlfriend. After he convinces her to go out Friday night, the scene does an about-face, and we see another weary traveler heading down a dark road late at night. This guy is just walking though, and when he hears something stirring nearby, he investigates. He only lives about thirty seconds more to regret that stupidity. Again, the police arrive, and can’t figure out what would’ve done this. Wetherby is also there, and remarks that the man’s whole face is missing! He also follows the tracks of the beast, and sees that after it ran for a time on four legs, then changed to walking like a bipedal animal.

The sheriff drops off Wetherby at his home, and then Wetherby heads over to his buddy’s house. A local big game hunter named Byron Douglas (Clint Walker – image below), is his friend, and the two have been on hunting trips together. Wetherby practically begs Byron to help, but he tells him that he’s too busy. Wetherby is stunned that his old friend wont help, and the scene ends. Later that day, when the darkness falls, a couple are making out in a trailer, when they hear a noise. As they investigate, they are shocked when the beast bursts through the glass door, and devours both of them!

 

screamofwolf3

Meanwhile, Wetherby and Sandy are having dinner at a local restaurant, and discussing the murders. Byron walks in, and stops over at their table for a quick hello. He asks Wetherby if the creature has killed again, and Wetherby tells him he was right, that it has killed more people (the couple in the trailer). Byron remarks that the creature is fascinating, and Sandy gets angry (the two are at opposite ends of this conversation). Byron smirks, then asks Wetherby if he’s heard the rumor around  town that people think it’s a werewolf. Wetherby laughs and Byron tells him not to scoff at the notion. He then recounts a time the two were on a hunting trip in Canada, and hunting an enormous wolf. How the Native Americans living in that area told them it wasn’t just any wolf, but a trapper that had been turned into a wolf.

Suddenly, a local man approaches Byron, and asks him what kind of pleasure he gets from killing innocent animals. Byron tells him he can’t explain it. He then stands up and approaches the man, getting right in his face. He tells him he can’t tell him, but he can show him. The dude looks like he’s ready to crap in his shorts, but then Wetherby intervenes and breaks up the confrontation. On the way home, Wetherby tells Sandy that on that very hunting trip that Byron talked about, they were hunting it from the trees, but they couldn’t take it down. So Byron got down on the ground and took it on hand to hand with a hunting knife. He was bitten very badly by the wolf, and almost didn’t survive.

 

screamofwolf1

After Wetherby drops Sandy off at her house, he heads home for the night. Sand y showers then gets ready for bed, but hears some noises outside her window. She then heads into the kitchen for some coffee, but sees something skulking in the shadows. She rushes into the other room and calls Wetherby. She tells him that someone is creeping around her house. She begs him to come over, and he tells her he’s on his way. Something then breaks into her home and she screams. She then runs into her bedroom, and locks the door. A beast of some kind begins to break the door down, but then the police arrive, and scare it off. Wetherby arrives minutes later, and tells Sandy she’ll be staying at his house for a while. The sheriff and Wetherby look around the house and see that whatever it was made Swiss cheese out of her door. They investigate outside and the tracks lead to the water, and a dead-end.

Wetherby goes out that next night, with a rifle in hand, to try to hunt the beast. He doesn’t make it very far though, when he’s surprised by the sheriff. The sheriff put a curfew on, and tells Wetherby that he must abide by it as well. The next day Sandy admits to calling the sheriff and ratting out Wetherby out of fear. Sandy then tells Wetherby that she thinks it’s Byron behind the killings. Wetherby dismisses her, and then the sheriff interrupts them. The sheriff then convinces Wetherby to go out to Byron’s house for a visit later on. They do, and Byron still refuses to help. He also puts himself under suspicion with the sheriff. As the sheriff storms out, Byron warns Wetherby about going out after this creature. He tells him that…”the prey will always do the unexpected.”

 

screamofwolf4

That night, the sheriff is watching Byron’s house. His deputy shows up to relieve him, and sees some movement near the house. As he moves in to see what it was, he heads into the basement. The corridors are dimly lit, and his flashlight can barely pierce the darkness. Without warning, something snarls at him, and charges. He gets off two shots, but is overtaken by the beast. Out in the woods, Wetherby is also hunting the creature, and hears a wolf howl. He then listens closely and can hear footsteps nearby. As he investigates, he finds the deputy in his car, sliced to ribbons.

The next day, the sheriff and local government officials hold a press conference and try to calm the public down. It backfires though, and then they are told the national Guard is being brought in to stop the killings. One of the reporters exclaims that people think it’s a werewolf, and the crowd erupts. Outside, Byron is waiting to talk to Wetherby about the killings. He tells him that the sheriff had questioned him all morning. Byron leaves, and Wetherby goes to his house immediately. Wetherby demands that Byron help him, but again he refuses. Byron then tells Wetherby that he’ll help, but only if Wetherby can hold his own in an arm wrestling contest for one minute. The two engage in the contest, but Byron easily defeats him. He tells Wetherby to forget about the animal, that it would kill him.

 

screamofwolf7.5

Later, Byron shows up, and tells Wetherby that he’s changed his mind about helping. Sandy is creeped out by Byron, and thinks it’s a trap. Once they arrive Byron asks Wetherby about the possibility of it being a werewolf. Wetherby still won’t believe it’s a werewolf, and the two are about to separate, when Byron tells him again that “a hunter isn’t sure of anything, except that the prey will do the unexpected.” Minutes into the excursion, a shot is fired off, and Wetherby hears Byron struggling with some animal. By the time he finds the location, he sees blood covering the jacket of Byron, lying face down. He then hears a wolf howl in the distance.

 

screamofwolf5

That’s where I’ll stop, because the last ten minutes are all spoilers and would ruin the ending. Just keep in mind that things are not always what they seem!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Alright, first off all, don’t miss out on this one due to it being a TV movie. It has a good production value to it, and also has some solid performances from Graves and Walker. Nothing Oscar worthy, but solid performances nonetheless. Walker is actually pretty creepy in this film, and sets a very ominous tone for the film. Graves plays a writer, and seems to be a little uncomfortable with the role. He never really talks about it or even is seen writing. Only chasing after Jo Ann Pflug, talking with the cops, and also arm wrestling Walker. The scenes where he’s acting like a hunter though, are quite good. Speaking of Jo Ann Pflug, she does a good job of being the “damsel in distress”, but doesn’t offer much else.

The sets were good, but not great. Specifically, the outdoor shots were the good part, but the interiors left something to be desired. The “villain” is a bit disappointing, kind of in the same vein of my thoughts on another “wolf”, in The Beast Must Die. OK, I know so far my thoughts sound pretty grim, but trust me, for a TV movie this one has a good story, two good lead role players, and a good ending. I also love the sound track as well. I’m a sucker for 1970’s music, and that’s a fact! I’m pretty sure that this flick is public domain, so I’ll post the link and you can give it a watch!

Check out the movie here!

 

screamofwolf7